I realize while reflecting what to write on this blogpost that my many happy travels started with this trip when my friend Joy, a batchmate from my high school days, called and invited me to go to Sagada with her barkada and workmates from Singapore. It is a time when I was just coming on to a phase in my life when it dawned on me that I have the freedom to do anything I want and that includes going anywhere as long as I arrange matters here at home. Most often, women like me with families and children rarely get a chance to travel alone or with their friends because “duties” and “obligations” tie them down to domestication. It is an actual moment of clarity for me – to realize that it is only the self that ties itself down from doing what they actually want, being what they want to be, and to free itself from the usual ways and routines we cannot seem to let go. We tell ourselves excuses – we are busy at work, we are busy at home, they can’t live without us, my family will die without me, etc. – but are they really (going to die — your family, you workmates, your company – without you)?
Going to Sagada was a celebration of my freedom, of being free from the box our culture, inadvertently or not, puts women like me in. From my home in Tarlac, I rode the bus at midnight to Baguio as Joy and I were meeting at the Dangwa Bus terminal at 5AM. I arrived at the station at 4:30, my mind alert and full of energy thinking of the adventures ahead. I waited for them at the cafe restaurant there and Joy’s group promptly arrived at 5AM. We ordered breakfast and Joy saw to our tickets as they are sold on a first-come-first-served basis with the limited bus seats and only one bus leaves every hour starting 5AM until 1PM (last trip). We were then reserved for the 6am trip.
This was the 3rd trip of Joy to Sagada. That time, she said, the roads were not paved as they are now. From Baguio to the junction (where the buses either turn to Sagada or go straight to Bontoc) was already a concrete highway but going up to Sagada, the road works were ongoing then, and some parts were still dusty rough roads. We reached the town center at 11am, a 5-hour bus ride which they say was already fast compared to what it used to be.
Joy was our expert Sagada guide then and she led us to the town hall where the Information Center is based. All tours were booked and paid in this quaint tourism coordination hub of Sagada where standardized tour rates includes transportation to your destination and back to your inn/pension house, accredited tour guides, and all other fees that need to be paid.
We looked around for an inn to stay. There were not that many visitors at that time and we found our temporary home at St Joseph’s Inn which was small cottage-like house with a ground floor of two (2) rooms (with double beds each, so 4 people in this floor) and an attic-upstairs common room with double beds that can accommodate ten (10) people costing only 3500php per night.
Our group of eight (8) happily settled in and ate our lunch at Strawberry Café.
The afternoon was free and Joy led us walking to the nearby pine-needle clad paths of Echo Valley to see the hanging coffins. This mini-trek was in the town itself starting from the Church of St Mary the Virgin (a Protestant church) then going up and down the hilly paths.
On the cliffs we could see the coffins wondering how the people manage to place them in that precarious cliff face and have been hanging there for a century through rain, storm and other nature’s forces!
Some local kids were roaming around with us and they said there was a cave and river somewhere up ahead the paths. They led us there walking for another 30 minutes. Walking back, in all we consumed the afternoon that left us famished for dinner. We ate a big meal at the Yoghurt House (carbo-loading daw for the next day’s caving haha!) then window shopped at the stores along the street selling souvenir trinkets, shirts and other pasalubong.
We slept fitfully that night excitedly looking forward to our Cave Connection tour and Bomod-ok Falls trek the next day.
(blogpost to be continued and another post on Sagada’s food and eating places… coming soon!)